Back at the scene of his 2011 Champions League final triumph, Lionel Messi delivered another display of artistry at Wembley Stadium.
Messi’s two goals helped Barcelona fight off Tottenham’s second-half resurgence and secured a 4-2 win for the visitors on Wednesday.
But the victory — after a three-game winless domestic run — was built on much more than Messi’s virtuoso performance.
Selflessness isn’t a trait often attached to Luis Suarez, but it was the former Liverpool striker’s clever dummies that set up both goals from Messi as he allowed the ball to drift past him into the path of the Argentine forward.
The five-time world player of the year could even afford to hit the post twice before scoring in the second half as the five-time European champions made it two wins out of two in Group B.
“Everything he does is so unpredictable,” Barcelona playmaker Philippe Coutinho said. “I’m thrilled for him that he scored twice.”
Initially, Messi settled for a supporting role as his defense-splitting pass from the halfway line to Jordi Alba helped create the opening goal. After goalkeeper Hugo Lloris rashly rushed off his line to confront Alba the ball was squared for Philippe Coutinho to score within two minutes of kickoff.
While the opener owed much to Lloris’ poor judgment on his return from an injury sustained during a drunken-driving incident, the second goal was pure artistry. Messi also started the move that saw Suarez and Coutinho combine to set up Ivan Rakitic to volley superbly into the top of the net.
When the post twice denied Messi at the start of the second half it looked like he wouldn’t come close to repeating his hat trick in the 4-0 victory over PSV Eindhoven in the group opener.
But Messi, who scored in the 2011 final win over Manchester United, was afforded more space in the second half.
After Tottenham striker Harry Kane pulled one back in the 52nd minute, Messi started and completed the move four minutes later that restored Barcelona’s two-goal lead.
By the time Jordi Alba virtually cut the ball back from the byline, Messi had darted into the box and both Coutinho and Suarez left it for the five-time world player of the year to finish.
The prospect of a Tottenham comeback flickered again when Erik Lamela netted with a deflected strike in the 66th
“We had a few problems,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “But we solved them.”
Or Messi did. As Suarez let the ball go past him, the unmarked Messi tapped into an open net in the 90th to put the score beyond the reach of a Tottenham side which has never lifted the European Cup.
“What we had to do was take risks,” Pochettino said. “When you play against Barcelona you can have different players and different tactics but the result will be the same.”
Tottenham’s task was made even harder with three core players out injured: Defender Jan Vertonghen, midfielder Dele Alli and playmaker Christian Eriksen, who all featured 11 months ago in a victory over European champion Real Madrid at Wembley.
After losing its group opener to Inter Milan, Tottenham is now on zero points along with PSV Eindhoven, which lost 2-1 to the Italian side on Wednesday.
The quality of the field in north London didn’t match the spectacle in a stadium where this game wasn’t even due to be played. With the rebuilding of White Hart Lane overrunning, Wembley is still Tottenham’s temporary home.
It’s not just the additional burden from unexpected Tottenham games accounting for the brown, dead grass across the center. It is less than two weeks since a boxing ring was constructed for the Anthony Joshua-Alexander Povetkin world heavyweight title fight.
“It wasn’t this plan to play this game on Wembley,” Pochettino said. “What can we do? Nothing. The grass needs to grow.”
Mbappe puts on a show with a 4 goal showing.
Three months removed from scoring in the World Cup final and still three months shy of his 20th birthday, Kylian Mbappe is already a serious title contender for the Ballon d’Or as the best soccer player in the world.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker helped his case over the weekend, becoming the youngest player in the past 45 seasons to score four goals in a single French league game.
“The Ballon d’Or? Why not? I don’t rule out anything,” Mbappe said after scoring the four in a 14-minute span on Sunday as PSG extended its unbeaten start to nine wins with a 5-0 rout of Lyon.
On Monday, Mbappe was included in the 30-man list of contenders for the Ballon d’Or awarded every year by France Football magazine. The winner will be announced on Dec. 3.
Mbappe, who won the best young player award at the World Cup in Russia after becoming the first teenager to score in a final since Pele in 1958, delivered on Sunday his most efficient display since joining PSG.
After Neymar put the hosts in front from the penalty spot early in the game, Mbappe single-handedly won a fiercely contested match at the Parc des Princes, which saw both teams reduced to 10 men in the second half.
L’Equipe newspaper summed it up with a picture of Mbappe celebrating one of his goals in Neymar’s arms with the headline: “Here, it’s Mbappe,” a reference to PSG’s motto “Ici, c’est Paris” (“Here, it’s Paris”).
“For me he’s a phenomenon,” Neymar said. “I hope it will continue like that for several years because football will thank him.”
Neymar joined PSG from Barcelona to flee from the shadow of Lionel Messi but could become eclipsed by Mbappe.
Following his four-goal showing, Mbappe is tied for the French scoring lead with eight, alongside Neymar.
Neymar was out injured for a long spell last season and had a disappointing World Cup. He is not among the favorites for the Ballon d’Or. But Mbappe delivered breathtaking performances in Russia and has been consistent throughout the year.
The only stain on his record so far this year is a red card — the second of his PSG career — he received during injury time on Sept. 1 in a 4-2 win at Nimes, which resulted in a three-game ban. That day, Mbappe reacted wildly to a challenge from behind, shoved his opponent angrily to the ground, and had to be restrained by teammates.
Mbappe has since made amends. Not yet the equal of Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, who have shared the past 10 Ballon d’Or awards, the teenage wonder has a good chance to dethrone the pair in December despite the fierce competition from the likes of Luka Modric and Antoine Griezmann, who are also among the favorites.
“If he continues at this level, he can win it in any year,” Mbappe teammate Angel Di Maria said. “We see in each of his matches the potential that he has, he exploits it every time, even if he is only 19.”
Ronaldo denies rape allegations.
Cristiano Ronaldo denied the accusations of rape against him, saying Wednesday that he had a “clear conscience” as he awaits the conclusions of an investigation.
The 33-year-old Ronaldo has been accused of rape by Kathryn Mayorga. She has said the soccer great raped her in Las Vegas in 2009.
“I firmly deny the accusations being issued against me. Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in. Keen as I may be to clear my name, I refuse to feed the media spectacle created by people seeking to promote themselves at my expense,” Ronaldo said in a statement .
I firmly deny the accusations being issued against me. Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in. Keen as I may be to clear my name, I refuse to feed the media spectacle created by people seeking to promote themselves at my expense.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) October 3, 2018
My clear conscious will thereby allow me to await with tranquillity the results of any and all investigations.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) October 3, 2018
Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in Nevada last week seeking monetary damages from Ronaldo, according to lawyer Larissa Drohobyczer .
The Associated Press does not typically identify alleged victims of sexual assault, but Drohobyczer said Mayorga gave permission for her name to be used.
The civil lawsuit filed in state court in Las Vegas alleges Ronaldo raped Mayorga, who was then 24, in his penthouse suite at a Las Vegas hotel and hired a team of what the document called “fixers” to shape the monetary settlement, obstruct a police criminal investigation and trick Mayorga into taking $375,000 to keep quiet.
Drohobyczer said Tuesday that Mayorga, now 34, was “emotionally fragile” and agreed to an out-of-court financial settlement nine years ago because she never wanted her name made public.
In an Instagram video posted hours after the suit was filed, Ronaldo appeared to deny the allegations.
“Fake. Fake news,” said the five-time world player of the year. “You want to promote by my name. It’s normal. They want to be famous, to say my name. But it is part of the job. I am a happy man and all good.”
Mayorga met Ronaldo at a nightclub, according to the lawsuit, and went with him and other people to his suite, where the alleged attack took place in a bedroom.
On Tuesday, Las Vegas police spokesman Aden OcampoGomez said that because the investigation is open, the department would not make public a police report that Mayorga filed the day of the alleged attack. The lawsuit said Mayorga also went to a hospital, where a sexual assault medical examination was conducted.
However, Mayorga refused to tell police the location of the alleged attack or to identify a suspect other than to say he was a European soccer player, OcampoGomez said.
Ronaldo, who is a Portuguese citizen, went from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009 for a then-record sum of 94 million euros, or about $130 million. He now plays for Italian club Juventus.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages of at least $200,000. It makes 11 accusations against Ronaldo or those working for him, including conspiracy, defamation, abusing a vulnerable person, battery, infliction of emotional distress, coercion and fraud, racketeering and conspiracy, breach of contract, abuse of process and negligence for allowing details of the confidential settlement to become public.
Firmino enters to give Liverpool a heart-stopping win over PSG
Celebrating Liverpool’s stoppage-time winner by covering his left eye, Roberto Firmino was finally able to jest about the injury that nearly denied him a chance to face Paris Saint-Germain.
Assurances the scratch on the cornea had cleared up only came hours before kickoff in the Champions League on Tuesday.
“I can open the eye again,” Firmino told Juergen Klopp, according to his manager after the 3-2 victory.
Firmino still had to bide his time to play, starting on the bench and watching as Liverpool threw away a two-goal lead. Firmino had been on the pitch 11 minutes by the time Kylian Mbappe equalized for the French champions in the 83rd minute.
But the French World Cup winner’s carelessness at the other end allowed Firmino to provide a thrilling climax to a pulsating night at Anfield to open Group C.
Mbappe was dispossessed by James Milner and Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk combined to feed the ball to Firmino. The Brazil forward, who injured his eye against Tottenham on Saturday, now had the vision to find the space to weave through the defense and strike the ball low into the net.
“The day before yesterday there was no chance (he could play) and yesterday it didn’t look well,” Klopp said. “This morning he came in and said ‘I’m fine.’”
It all made for painful viewing for PSG coach Thomas Tuchel in his first Champions League game with the French champions. Conceding in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of an electrifying encounter at Liverpool is just what happened when Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund was beaten 4-3 by Klopp’s side in the Europa League quarterfinals in 2016.
“This is what Liverpool do,” Tuchel said. “They press you and they make it hard for you in possession.”
Four months after the five-time European champions lost last season’s final to Real Madrid, Liverpool showed its credentials to challenge for the title again by finding a way to tame Neymar and Mbappe for much of the game.
“He’s got to work hard to try to improve,” Tuchel said of Mbappe.
Left back Andy Robertson, who repelled Mbappe’s forays down the right, also showed his attacking ability by setting up the opener. A cross from Robertson was headed in by Daniel Sturridge 30 minutes into his first Champions League start since playing for Chelsea in 2012.
“We are good at getting in people’s faces,” Robertson said, “especially at home to make it uncomfortable.”
Milner, who was Liverpool’s tireless engine in midfield, then stepped up to the penalty spot when Georginio Wijnaldum was tripped by Juan Bern, doubling the lead in the 36th minute.
“We conceded goals in the first half,” Tuchel said, “but we never lost our confidence.”
That was evident when Thomas Meunier sliced into the net in the 40th minute, and PSG avoided a bigger deficit when Mohamed Salah’s goal in the 67th was ruled out for Sturridge sinking his studs into goalkeeper Alphonse Areola in the buildup.
Salah, Liverpool’s top scorer last season, had a low-key game and it was his misplaced pass that gifted PSG a chance to equalize. Substitute Julian Draxler took the ball forward and released Neymar, who was challenged by van Dijk as he broke into the area. Mbappe seized on the loose ball and fired into the bottom corner.
“In the second half I think we showed a bit more personality,” PSG defender Thiago Silva said. “But in a match like this, where the level is high, you always have to be focused, because the other team can score at any given moment.”
As Firmino showed after Liverpool seized on Mbappe’s misfortune to make it six wins out of six in all competitions this season.
“We lost a ball that usually we don’t lose,” Thiago Silva said, “and we were punished for that mistake.”
PSG is rarely so troubled at home, already sitting five points clear by winning the opening five games of its French title defense. The harder task is wining the Champions League for the first time.
“Maybe today we could have displayed a little bit more aggression,” Tuchel said. “Maybe we need to improve in our intensity in some areas of the field.”
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